Saturday, November 16, 2013
faith development of women pioneers
If I had time, if I had money …
I’d like to do a research project exploring the faith development of women pioneers in not-for profit projects, who are motivated by a specifically Christian outlook. It would conduct qualitative research into women who exercise leadership in three contexts – larger evangelical/charismatic churches, ecclesial pioneering contexts and not-for profit projects – comparing and contrast the processes by which they develop their leadership, the impact of their situatedness in context, and the implications for their faith and spiritual development.
Anyone want to join me? More importantly, anyone want to fund the data gathering?
Friday, November 08, 2013
Leadership formation days
All around us at Uniting College is change. So much of it that at times I find it hard to keep on track of.
Back in July, we introduced changes to our Leadership Formation Days (announced here). Building on the past, we decided to try in our Leadership Formation Days to focus more specifically on practices and storytelling. Leadership Formation Days (currently) involve Uniting Church candidates for ministry and those in discernment. Prior to 2010, they occurred weekly on a Wednesday afternoon for chapel, community and colloquium input.
With a move to more dispersed training models and Candidates in context and at distance, we needed to find a different rhythm. So we shifted in 2011 to monthly on a Monday, all day. We kept chapel and community and offered a range of topics considered topical.
Another shift began this semester. We’ve moved from topics to practices. We opted to explore the practices (10) essential for mission-shaped spirituality. (Drawing on Susan Hope’s Mission-shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission). Each time we gather we take a particular practice and over our day together, explore it in more depth, with a particular focus, on what the practice might mean for us as life-long learners and effective leaders in mission today.
Rather than work through them in the order from Mission-shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission, we opted for a most challenging basis. This involved an initial introduction to all 10 practices and as part of that, the question – what practice challenges you the most? The results have shaped how the order.
So the shape of our final leadership formation Day for 2013 – with a focus on being bearers of the message – was as follows.
9:30 am – Missional Practice – Tim Hein – Being message bearers – the habits that shape and sharpen “message bearer” ministry
11 am – Morning tea
11:20 – Communities of trust processes in groups in S1, chapel, common space – Introduction including reflection of practise as a disciplines that read us, read our community actions.
12:20- Chapel with special guest Malcolm Gordon leading
1:10 – Lunch
2:00 pm – Storytelling one – Julie, an ordinary evangelist – a great example of a message bearer – using Skype. After the story, reflect in groups using a regular set of questions to engage and deepen insight.
2:45 pm – Storytelling two – Saint story told by Steve Taylor – Parikaha story as an example of a community as a message bearer.
After some adjustment over the last few months, all that initial trying out of new things – story, group processes – there was on Monday a real sense of depth and engagement. The mixed modes of input – teaching, storytelling, chapel, discussion, food are throwing up some lovely patterns. A highlight for me has been the storytelling – inviting new voices among us. We’ve used a mix of local, national and international guests and heard some great stories of God at work. A change, one of many, that is working it’s way nicely through our life.
Tuesday, October 01, 2013
change as the aggregation of small moments
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about small moments. What are the quiet places, the moments in conversation, the habits, by which I might be part of enacting change and being part of transformation? I work for an organisation in decline, one that has been in decline for decades (over a hundred years, back to the start of the twentieth century according to one researcher). In decline, certain surface habits can emerge, certain ways of being, certain self-perceptions and accepting norms and acceptance of the status quo.
The organisation I work for is itself part of a larger story, a faith that is in the West eroding away. This produces pressures and realities. Again, it suggest a set of habits, held to be determinative.
It is tempting in such times to look for the bold gesture and the silver bullet, the only sweeping solution that will herald a new era. I see this embodied in the call for certain types of leaders, or the endless supply of conferences. I see this is the rush toward action. I see this in myself. I see it in others.
So a quiet encouragement today from an unlikely source, Douglas Coupland’s Life After God.
“And if we were to collect these small moments in a notebook and save them over a period of months we would see certain trends emerge from our collection—certain voices would emerge that have been trying to speak through us. We would realize that we have been having another life altogether; one we didn’t even know was going on inside us. And maybe this other life is more important than the one we think of as being real—this clunky day-to-day world of furniture and noise and metal. So just maybe it is these small silent moments which are the true story-making events of our lives.” Life After God
Key words that I ponder – collect, small, inside, silent, story-making. It has echoes of the work of Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, his call to let the true story inside each of us be heard. A story repressed by ourselves, by our families of origin, by our society. Yet inside us, it calls, offering us, if we will listen, our true vocation.
A call to reject the grand gesture and instead look for small moments, the repeated habits, the attitudes. To see in these the enormous potential for change, by the simple act of listening, journalling even, and over time, letting the trends surface, and in them weaving a story. Not a surface story of first appearances, but a true, deep story.
That is my task today – to continue to listen, to collect, to discern – another story.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
telling a story one year on
Today I’m planting seeds. First, early morning, in my garden, Van Gogh sunflowers, Wild Sweetie micro tomatoes, heirloom carrots and provencal salad mix. Second, later today, I’m hosting a one year on anniversary.
This is the invite I sent out (planted?) a few weeks ago …
A year ago, you gave us at Uniting College a gift.
You participated with us in a Capacity Builders process, giving your input, ideas and perspectives, as we at Uniting College worked toward a four year Strategic Planning process.
One year on, we want to report back.
On Tuesday, September 10, between 4:15-5:15 pm, in Uniting College Common Space, 34 Lipsett Tce, we want to thank and update you,
to share with you,
- the result – including the new tag line, sharpened mission statement, signposts, and 2014 objectives
- the home truths – some feedback we found hard to hear, but essential as we looked into the feedback mirror
- the road not travelled – some moments of learning, about ourselves and our mission, emerging from our 2013 objectives
- the road travelled – some highlights of God’s goodness in the last 12 months
There will be wine, cheese, stories and information, so for catering purposes, can you please RSVP to eloise dot scherer at flinders dot edu dot au.
It was in September a year ago that we as a theological College began a strategic planning process. While the idea of strategic planning in a theological college has a number of potential pitfalls, for us its been a breath of fresh air, providing clarity and allowing a depth of listening and community and team.
Today we’ll share some of that, and some of the stories of fresh life (planted seeds) that have sprouted among us.
Update: Feedback was very positive. We began with wine and cheese, which gave a relaxed, after work type of feel.
I then talked about the results, the feedback and the process. At various times I offered ways to engage. One idea that went really well, was giving out 5 hot dots to each person and asking them to vote on what they thought our 2014 goals should be. The goals had been placed up around the walls. I ran through them and then (3 days after the election here in Australia) people got to to vote (again), wandered around with the dots, choosing. It has been great for us as a team to have this outside input into what we as a team had initially thought was important.
Finally I finished with four highlights of the 2013 gone
- our first ever candidate indigenous immersion experience (see here and here)
- a just announced Gold award for “Best Theological Article” from the Australasian Religious Press Association for one of our lecturers
- our growth in the use of online learning, in both our under-graduate and post-graduate courses
- regional delivery, allowing us to engage many more lay people in our BMin
All in all, One Year On worked really well – an informal way for us to enjoy ourselves, while maintaining connections, giving and receiving feedback and telling stories
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Leadership Formation as mission-shaped practices
This is a sign of some of our recent work at College – we’re shifting our formation day processes for candidates to focus around the practices of mission-shaped leadership. Here’s the email that went out yesterday to candidates and those in a Period of Discernment.
Our next Leadership Formation Day is August 5, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm. We will begin in S1.
As it is the start of a new semester, we will return to the vision for Uniting College. When Andrew Dutney introduced the new name of the College to Synod in 2009, he did it by reflecting on his experiences of backpacking around Europe. He described the backpacking habit of tearing out the chapter that related to the particular city you were in at the time.
“It shocked me when I first saw it …. I soon saw the good sense in what was going on. Why carry around 500 bound pages on the whole of Western Europe all day when you really only need the 20 pages on Antwerp? … It’s just extra weight on your shoulders. In any case, the memories of the sights and experiences of a Belgian port city are carried more effectively in the stories that you swap with other travellers on the next train than in a few printed pages.”
Which he linked to the dominant image of Christian life in the Uniting Church of pilgrimage (full talk is here).
As a Uniting College team, we’ve sensed its time for another chapter in the pilgrimage of Leadership Formation Days. Prior to 2010, we met weekly on a Wednesday afternoon for chapel, community and colloquium input.
The chapter could be titled: Weekly and Wednesdays.
In the last few years we’ve met monthly on a Monday, all day. We’ve kept chapel and community and extended the colloquium input, with a range of topics – Spiritual gifts, Preamble, Conflict etc.
The chapter title could be titled: Monthly and topical.
As a team, we’ve discerned another chapter. On August 5, we will introduce this chapter. We will focus on 10 practices essential for mission-shaped spirituality. And ask each other what they mean for us as life-long learners and effective leaders in mission today. And swap stories as pilgrims on the way. (And we’ll keep chapel and community).
Perhaps with hindsight this chapter will be titled: Monthly and mission-shaped.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Why the Leap of faith is a myth
Where do great ideas come from? Research indicates it never comes a golden bullet, an inspired leap of faith. Vera John-Steiner interviewed over 70 living creative geniuses. She also analyzed the notebooks of 50 dead ones (including Tolstoy, Einstein, etc.) to look at their work habits.
She even planned to title her book “The Leap” because it would be about those giant flashes of inspiration that led to breakthrough ideas.
But she was completely wrong.
Eureka! moments turned out to be a myth.
There was no inspiration moment where a fully formed answer arrived.
Strokes of genius happened over time.
A great idea comes into the world by drips and drabs, false starts, and rough sketches. (From here)
Instead, creative inspiration involves writing down ideas as early as possible, keeping everything, giving things time and being willing to wrestle with ideas and search for clarity. And the refusal to expect that inspiration will deliver a finished product.
Perhaps the only golden bullet is buying a notebook/keeping a blog ie finding some place to store your work product.
Monday, June 24, 2013
the thinner the skin of leadership? U2, Kite, Jesus and change
’cause hardness, it sets in
You need some protection
The thinner the skin
- U2, Kite
I’ve been reflecting a lot on leadership recently. There are public dimensions to being in a role like Principal. Lots of people provide opinions on how things could be, on how the job should be done. If change happens, then there are all sorts of unintended consequences. Human responses to change are natural, important, and need to be heard. As U2 say, “the thinner the skin,” the more these opinions are taken on board.
I’ve observed a number of responses, a number of ways that “protection” is sought.
One is to hide, to avoid the intensity of relationships by being less available. This can be physically, by finding other places to be. This can be internally, by withdrawing within oneself.
Another is cynicism, to find oneself more and more often with arms folded, seeing the negative side of everything.
I’m sure there are other ways that people find protection.
One of the things I admire about Jesus is how he lived with a “thinner skin.” Even in the events of Holy Week, we find him caring, listening, leading. Through all this he seemed to remain open. There is no resorting to cyncism, no hiding from the challenges he faces.
So to use the lines from U2, did he find a “healthy” hardness, appropriate modes of protection, life-giving ways to enact his gifts and charisms? Or is that any “hardness”, any “protection” is in fact not in the way of Jesus? Was he in the end, so “thin-skinned” that it led to death? And is that in fact God’s way of bringing life? Can Kingdom change only occur when the seed dies?
Only questions, in what is, a fairly “thin-skinned” blogpost !
Thursday, May 30, 2013
totems for ministry training in the Uniting Church
Totem – A natural object or animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and adopted by it as an emblem.
The pathway to ordained ministry in the Uniting church is divided into four phrases.
First, an initial period of discernment. For at least a year a person has a mentor, some set ministry tasks, some study, which includes the range of ministry opportunities within the Uniting Church, and some intentional retreat experiences. These are designed to explore the question – what is God calling me to.
Second, the Core Phase. If the person believes they are called to ordained ministry, they apply to become a candidate. If accepted, they enter a period of around three years, in which they mix intentional study, ministry practice and formation. This includes being partnered with the Formation Panel, who work with them three times a year, discerning together the best pathway by which to nurture each person’s unique ministry charism.
Third, Phase 3. If deemed ready by the Church, they are ordained and enter a first placement. They are primarily in placement in ministry, but are surrounded by a stronger set of supports. These include a supervisor. They also remain with their formation panel and continue to study.
Fourth, lifelong learning, in which they continue in placement. They are blessed out of a Formation panel. They are encouraged to continue in supervision and in learning.
With that oveview, let me return to totems, in this case the objects by which a particular society places spiritual significance. At the start of Phase 2, the new candidate meets with the Principal. As part of this, the Principal gives them a number of gifts.
I reckon these are totems. Symbolically they speak of what is considered essential to Phase 2. In the case of Uniting College, historically they have included a worship resources (Uniting in Worship 2), a book about the regulations of the church, a book of essays on key polity decisions and a book on the history of ministry formation.
Here’s my question.
What five things would you give to a person about to start training for ministry within a denominational system?
(Note, I am focusing on Phase 2, training, not Phase 3, first placement. The Uniting church has another set of totems for that!).
Thursday, April 18, 2013
consensus and decisionmaking
The Uniting church seeks to work by consensus. It relies on a lot of people working very hard, willing to listen deeply, and skillful chairing, to help the process. When it is found, especially in larger groupings, it is a joy to behold.
So here’s a really interesting counter view, from Michael Stiassny, at the Institute of Directors annual conference in New Zealand yesterday.
consensus allowed directors to hide from making tough decisions. “I think it is time we toughened up. We need to be stronger and share our views.” …. passionate people needed clear boundaries … boards and chief executives needed to have full and frank discussions … “If the chair and CEO are holding hands – how on earth are the board going to have a frank discussion?”
I’m not saying I like all the corporate language. Nor am I saying I agree. But it’s worth a read and to consider if at times, consensus leads to poorer decisionmaking and less truth telling in an organisation. Full article here.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Gender matters: Like the Wildeness of the sea, by Maggi Dawn
Gender matters. As I began to process my emerging church 10 years on data, I began to realise that gender matters – that in communities in which women led, women are more likely to grow; that in some denominations, most of the money invested in paid pioneers is invested in men; that some of the more interesting research I came across were into fresh expressions that were run by lay women.
So my sabbatical reading took a detour, into women’s faith development.
- was my data odd or does gender matter in faith development?
- Yes! In alienation, through awakenings, by relationality
- What do Lo-ruhamah in Hosea 1, Namaan’s wife’s slave girl in 2 Kings 5, the slave girl in Philippi in Acts 16, Jarius daughter in the Gospels have in common?
- do women lead differently?
It is a theme that reemerges loud and clear in Maggi Dawn’s, Like the Wildeness of the Sea. Introduced as a book about women and bishops and the Church of England, it’s actually much more. It’s a book about the ability, or otherwise, of the church to be a flourishing place for gifted people.
What a different church it would be if all the gifts of its women were validated, and all their energy unleashed. If no more time was wasted discussing whether or not our place in church is valid, if no more goodwill dribbled away because of the despondency that follows from a dream being deferred, what a powerhouse of transforming social and spiritual power the Church might become. If this is to happen, though, it will demand more than a compromised measure through the system that gives an impression of permission to women. (Like the Wildeness of the Sea, 75)
And then this quote, which makes obvious that this is not only about ordination, but also about workplace cultures and habits.
what I would love my colleagues in the Church of England to know is this: I achieve twice as much in a working week as I did before. Why? Simply for this reason: none of my mental energy is wasted justifying my existence, surviving bullies, fending off harassment, or anticipating sexist behaviour. I don’t have to think about whether I should speak more loudly or more softly to gain permission to be heard. I don’t have to worry about whether my clothes will be thought too feminist or too feminine, or second-guess myself all the time to work out how to gain the space and the permission to do the job I’m appointed to. I just wake up every day feeling good, go to work full of energy, work hard all day, and come home, most days of the week, still smiling.
Because gender matters. Read it and weep. And dream. Like the Wildeness of the Sea, by Maggi Dawn
Friday, November 23, 2012
a woman on women bishops
Remarkable essay by Sarah Coakley, Anglican Priest and Systematic Theologian at Cambridge University on women bishops. (I’ve engaged with her work previously – When non-priests pray: A conversation between Sarah Coakley and Bono Vox regarding incorporative pneumatology and priestly prayer. And here in relation to indigenous relationships.) She points to the absurb lack of logic in ordaining priests while not allowing them to be bishops -”an offence to theological truth, a running sore of incoherence in our theological life-world without whose resolution and healing no other, related, theological project in our Church can I believe go forward and flourish.”
What is fascinating is her demand for theological rigour and depth with the tradition of the church, yet in a way that (to my reading) is still giving enormous permission to fresh expressions.
Hooker’s perspective does indeed allow for novelties in the rational reception of Bible and tradition: the plastic nature of Hooker’s conception of reason, and its deep understanding of historical embeddedness, does allow for creative development in response to the primacy of Scriptural authority and the deposit of tradition, without the danger of a merely historical or moral relativism. There is nothing in Hooker, then, that would give credence to the slogan that “nothing new is ever true.” But there is everything to suggest the possibility of hopes for future creativity and renewal.
In other words, (my words) being “traditional” is never an excuse to block innovation. Rather being “traditional” is to be innovative, to expect a great depth of creativity, that emerges from the hard work of understanding context and one’s roots.
Thursday, November 08, 2012
learning through listening
The last few months have included settling into a new role as Principal. The College has a team of 12 and we’ve all gone through the adjustment of a person within the team becoming a leader in the team.
One of my first goals was to find time to connect with the team. I did this by booking some time with each person to listen. I had four questions, which I’ve asked each person. I’d thought long and hard about what I wanted to ask. Here’s what I crafted.
- Tell me about your sense of call (given I wasn’t part your interview as you began work at Uniting College)
- Imagine a bathtub. It can be emptied, through a plug hole. It can be filled, through a tap. As you think about your sense of call, what about Uniting College enhances your sense of call?
- What about Uniting College drains that sense of call?
- Since I’m new, tell me what responsibilities and priorities you have with us?
I let the whole team know this process was happening before I began. I also let them know as a whole team the questions. I took them individually to a local cafe and listened.
It’s been gold. Absolutely gold. As a team member commented recently, I learnt more in 60 minutes than 3 years of corridor conversations. It was true.
People have felt affirmed. Often there’s been new insights for them, fresh connections about their unique fingerprint and how it’s being inked. I’ve gained perspectives on the organisation that I never would have had otherwise.
If mission is finding out where God is up to and joining in, then the first task of mission is listening. In this case, to people in our teams.
Tuesday, November 06, 2012
colour wheeling into formation for ministry
Yesterday I spent an hour sharing the big picture of formation for ministry as we currently understand it at Uniting College. The thing that generated the most energy in the candidates seemed to be a colour wheel.
I began with two quotes, taken from our Formation Panel handbook:
“Ministerial formation is first of all an aspect of Christian formation; growing as a disciple of Christ and serving God in the world. It includes transformation, taking in the likeness of Christ as we respond to God’s work of renewing creation. Ministerial formation is grounded in formation for discipleship.” (Formation Panel Handbook, 2)
“Ministerial formation is a life-long process. It involves the whole person – integrating his or her spiritual life, knowledge, skills, attitudes, personal priorities and health.” (2)
After some interaction about our individual uniqueness, I suggested that one way to clarify formation for ministry was to see it as having three parts
- study – lectures and topics
- ministry practice – engagement in ministry
- formation – the processes by which we are shaped organically
I had lots of colour wheels scattered around the space. Folk were invited to choose three colours, to fit them together and to think about their formation. When they first began to sense a call to ministry, how much study had they done, how much ministry practice had they been engaged in, how much life formation had happened?
As they shared in pairs, the insights began to emerge.
But hey, the two of us – we’re different. Exactly. Formation is a unique process.
The colour wheel moves. It changes. But so do I! Exactly, the seasons of our lives might well invite different patterns of formation.
Which allowed a rich conversation. About what we provide at College, an ideal framework that might be a way to ground and make ministerial formation practical – topics to study and different ways to engage ministry practice and various intentional experiences.
But how this could never be a strait-jacket, a one-size fits all approach. Because each of us come with different range of experiences. So each of us need a different type of course experience. Which requires a lot of discerning together. Which takes time. And gets messy.
But how else can we take the unique and individual processes of formation seriously? And all around the room, people gently wheeled their colours into formation for ministry.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
the colours of formation
“Ministerial formation is a life-long process. It involves the whole person.” (This quote comes from our Uniting College Formation Panel handbook.)
That is so provocative. How does what a theological college offers give expression to what is life-long and embodied? It is so tempting to assume those who join us are blank slates, in whom we need to download everything they need. It is equally tempting to assume that we have more influence than reality, because a person has countless influences in their lives outside of the theological college experience – family, friends, sport, church – that makes them who they are.
So how does ministerial formation respect the past and integrate the whole? One way to conceptualise this is through categories of theological study, ministry practice and formation. To seek to place equal weight on class, experience and the non-formal practices and disciplines.
Which got me thinking colours. You see, part of the whole person is our visual and our sensory. Part of the whole person means thinking not only in words, but also in colours.
If you had to choose one colour, what colour is theological study?
If you had to choose one colour, what colour is ministry practice?
If you had to choose one colour, what colour is formation?